Fires flare in Israeli prisons amid manhunt for 6 escapees

Fires flare in Israeli prisons amid manhunt for 6 escapees
Supporters of Islamic Jihad movement distribute sweets to celebrate the escape of six Palestinians from an Israeli prison, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 08 September 2021

Fires flare in Israeli prisons amid manhunt for 6 escapees

Fires flare in Israeli prisons amid manhunt for 6 escapees
  • Fires were reported at several prisons amid efforts to try to move inmates as a precautionary measure
  • Recriminations reportedly rippled through Israel's prison system in the wake of the country's largest jailbreak

TEL AVIV, Israel: Pressure built around Israel’s prison system Wednesday after fires broke out at several facilities and the government hunted for six Palestinian escapees who have been on the run since they tunneled out two days earlier.
Fires were reported at several prisons amid efforts to try to move inmates as a precautionary measure. An umbrella group representing prisoners from all Palestinian factions called on prisoners to resist being relocated to other facilities and to start fires in their cells if guards try to move them by force. The prisoners group also threatened a widespread hunger strike.
The Israel Prison Service said through a spokesperson that a fire broke out in two cells in different wings of Ramon Prison and that the blaze was brought under control. The Palestinian prisoners group reported fires in Ketziot Prison, and there were media reports of more unrest.
Recriminations reportedly rippled through Israel’s prison system, meanwhile, in the wake of the country’s largest jailbreak of its kind in decades. The six men who escaped, between 26 and 49 years old, apparently dug a tunnel out of Gilboa prison near the occupied West Bank and escaped early Monday.
The massive manhunt through Israel’s north and the occupied West Bank continued Wednesday as the new coalition government sought to maintain calm and Jews celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
The most well-known among the escapees is Zakaria Zubeidi, 46, who was a prominent leader in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed group affiliated with Fatah, during the second intifada from 2000-2005. He was later granted amnesty along with other Fatah-affiliated militants, but was arrested again in 2019 on what Israeli authorities said were new terror suspicions.
As a child, Zubeidi had been part of a children’s theater troupe in Jenin established by Arna Mer-Khamis, an Israeli rights activist, that was the subject of a 2004 documentary.
The other five prisoners were members of the Islamic Jihad militant group, and the prisoners’ group said four were serving life sentences.
Inside the prisons, Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions each have an organized presence and appear to be acting together in the wake of the escape.
The jailbreak poses a potential dilemma for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces coordinate with Israel. His Fatah party has praised the prison escape, but he has not commented on it.
Palestinians view prisoners held by Israel as heroes of their national cause, and have celebrated the prison break. If the escapees are apprehended in the occupied West Bank, many Palestinians are likely to blame the Palestinian Authority, which is already facing a popular backlash after the death of an activist in PA custody in June.


Saudi nutritionist uses his weight loss journey to inspire others

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Azam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Azam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
Updated 4 min 15 sec ago

Saudi nutritionist uses his weight loss journey to inspire others

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Azam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.
  • Durham University graduate talks up need for Saudi culture not to conflate its famed generosity with food

RIYADH: Unhealthy food and fitness habits are on the rise among Saudi youth, and maintaining a healthy weight has become a concern.

The weight-loss milestones of 24-year-old Salam Farid Azam has been a motivation for many wishing to achieve their weight goal.

Azam’s priority is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He lost 25 kg through his balanced habits, which have been cultivated through his educational experience in human nutrition and behavioral science.

Now, he has a mission to help others bury their weakening cycles of poor habits.

FASTFACTS

• Salam Farid Azam’s priority is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He lost 25 kg through his balanced habits, which have been cultivated through his educational experience in human nutrition and behavioral science.

• Now, he has a mission to help others bury their weakening cycles of poor habits.

Azam created his consultation platform, Sehha W Salam, two months ago.

“Sehha W Salam is a platform that’s trying to improve the overall health of people in society through personal consultations tailored to them,” Azam told Arab News.

“Consultants will try to enhance the behaviors and nutrition of people who come. They will try to understand the issues people are struggling with,” he said.

Qualified consultants create an in-depth case study of clients’ issues. Nutritional meal plans, exercises, and a combination of behavioral consultations are then applied, with prices dependent on how complex a case is.

“I am a registered associate nutritionist from the Association of Nutrition in the UK. I might recruit more qualified people with both qualifications in behavioral science and nutrition,” he said.

“The most convenient way of reaching me is through Instagram which is @sehhawsalam. Consultations will be held virtually over any video meeting platforms, or we can do it by visiting each other.”

Azam started his journey in the UK after high school. He was inspired to study nutrition because he was overweight during his adolescence.

“I thought of studying nutrition because I used to be overweight (at) around 13 years old. I was suffering from it. It affected me in terms of confidence in myself, my general well-being, I was shy, I was not socializing in general. I thought ‘I need to make a decision because I am not who I am’,” he said.

“I stayed at home all the time and played PlayStation and video games. I used to eat a lot, all the time, and I was unaware of my health. I used to play center back, the defending position in football, from primary school until I was 14. My colleagues and football team members (then) told me I need to play as a goalkeeper — I am not giving a bad impression of being a goalkeeper, but it’s usually given to people who don’t give a good impression of running. I was feeling rejected,” he explained.

Website surfing and Instagram accounts with nutritional information were the first source of awareness for Azam’s weight loss, before expanding his passion for nutrition at university.

“I chose Kingston University. I did my bachelor’s of science in human nutrition, and I was one of the top students in (the) university,” he said.

Azam complemented his bachelor’s with a master’s degree in behavioral sciences at Durham, one of the UK’s leading universities.

“We learned a lot about behavioral aspects of psychology. Choice architecture is a concept that looks at whether items are on an eye-level,” he said. “Changing the position of these unhealthy food products affects people’s choices. They crave these foods when they see it.”

Losing weight was difficult at first for Azam, especially without surgical intervention. His focus on food quality, avoiding fast food, and exercising gave a positive turn in all aspects surrounding his life.

“After I lost weight, I couldn’t describe how comfortable I felt. I started socializing, anticipating. I became very confident in myself. I started joining societies, leading them, going into positions of trust, and all of that. Nutrition can help people achieve their best,” said Azam.

Generosity is a key component of Saudi culture, and Azam believes that generosity and showing appreciation should not always be correlated with food — gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Food for him is not always for pleasure, but instead, mostly for survival.

“Saudi society is generous and we conflate it with food. I see people providing a generous quantity of food to guests, and they are treating it as generosity, which isn’t always healthy,” he said.

“Today’s doll-like body standards can be dangerous,” he added.

Azam said he places an importance in a Hadith that translates as: “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for water and one-third for breathing.”

He greatly appreciates the Kingdom’s efforts in looking out for the health of people in Saudi Arabia.

“I am really glad I am helping my country. Saudi Arabia is doing a really great job at the moment, especially in the health field. I am very proud to be Saudi, and I also look forward to improving my community and taking pride in doing so,” he said.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Left to Tell

What We Are Reading Today: Left to Tell
Updated 42 min 5 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Left to Tell

What We Are Reading Today: Left to Tell

Authors: Immaculee Ilibagiza and Steve Erwin

Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death.

She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love — a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers.

The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.


Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
Updated 42 min 13 sec ago

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence

Saudi banks shut down 42 branches in 12 months, increase digital presence
  • More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise

CAIRO: Saudi banks shut down 42 branches over the year ending in June, revealed the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

The number of bank branches in Saudi Arabia also inched lower to 1,927 in the second quarter this year from 1,932 in the same quarter last year.

So, what are the reasons behind this decreased number of bank branches, and when did this trend begin?

The most common assumption would be the COVID-19 pandemic and its prolonged effect on the entire economy, including the financial and banking sectors.

Between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2021, which includes the peak of the pandemic, 68 branches were closed. 

Also, bank branches continued to decrease quarterly long after lifting COVID-19 restrictions, albeit there was no clear trend.

Between May 2020 and June this year, 137 bank branches in the Kingdom shut shop.

It is worth mentioning that branches that have closed are not second-tier or underperforming banks but some of the largest and well-performing ones. For instance, Al Rajhi Bank, which had 543 branches in the fourth quarter of 2020, reduced it to 515 by June this year.

While COVID-19 sparked the digital revolution, advanced and innovative technologies did the job.

The past three years of the pandemic slowly began the transformation toward digital banking, which can be seen closely in the Saudi banking sector.

More banks are switching to increased virtual interactions and digitalization, and new banks are opening entirely on that premise.

Last February, SAMA licensed and welcomed the Kingdom’s third digital bank D360 Bank, following the launch of STC and Saudi Digital Bank in June last year.

Similarly, according to SAMA, 19 Saudi fintech companies have been authorized to provide payment services, consumer microfinance and electronic insurance brokerage over the past few months.

So, what does the future of digital banking in the Kingdom hold and will the population accept this digital revolution?

In a survey conducted by Ipsos in the Kingdom in October 2021, the research major pointed out that 61 percent still trust traditional banks, while 47 percent counted on mobile service providers and 40 percent depended on popular digital brands to carry out financial transactions.

The report added: “63 percent said that they will be making all their financial transactions through digital banking in the future, and 58 percent believe that people would no longer use cash as a payment method.”


Greece locates refugees in Evros; trapped for days between Greece, Turkey

Greece locates refugees in Evros; trapped for days between Greece, Turkey
Updated 15 August 2022

Greece locates refugees in Evros; trapped for days between Greece, Turkey

Greece locates refugees in Evros; trapped for days between Greece, Turkey

ATHENS: Greek police said on Monday afternoon they had located 38 Syrian refugees in the Lavara area of Evros, among them one pregnant woman and seven children.

The refugees had been trapped for days on a small islet in the Evros river along the border between Greece and Turkey, according to media reports and activists.

Greece had said on Sunday that after repeated searches it had not located any people on the islet that was outside Greek territory and had alerted Turkish authorities over the issue. The Turkish Interior Ministry declined comment.

On Monday, Greek police said the refugees were located in the Greek area of Lavara approximately four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of the coordinates of their initially reported position.

“Since they were located, Greek police forces and other government services have rushed to their aid, to provide health care, food and water and to transfer them to an area of temporary accommodation,” police said in a statement.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Twitter that they were in good condition and the pregnant woman was being transferred to hospital out of precaution. Greek police had also found a boat near them, he said.

Earlier, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) charity and other organizations had called for the immediate evacuation of 39 refugees from the islet.

The IRC said that among them was a nine-year old girl in a critical condition. It also cited media reports saying that her five-year-old sister had died after a scorpion had stung her and that the refugees had tried to reach the Greek mainland but had been pushed back.

“This latest situation at the Evros border highlights the brutality of pushbacks, which we know are taking place at borders across Europe,” said Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, IRC Greece Director.

Greek authorities have not confirmed the information cited by IRC and have repeatedly denied forcibly repelling refugees or migrants at border points. 
 


Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
Updated 15 August 2022

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route

Emirates sets date for flagship Airbus A380’s return to Perth route
  • The daily A380 flights will replace a Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats per flight
  • The announcement comes as the airline celebrates 20 years of flying to the city in Western Australia

LONDON: Emirates announced that it will reintroduce its flagship Airbus A380 on daily flights between Dubai and Perth from Dec. 1, as it ramps up its services to Australia in response to growing demand.

The A380 service to the city in Western Australia will replace the airline’s current daily Boeing 777-300ER service, increasing seating capacity by nearly 500 seats on each flight.

Flight EK420 from Dubai will depart at 2:45 a.m. and arrive in Perth at 5.20 p.m. the same day, while flight EK421 will take off from Perth at 10:20 p.m. and land in Dubai at 5:25 a.m. the following day.

Nearly 6 million passengers have flown with Emirates between Perth and Dubai since its inaugural flight between the cities in August 2002, according to the airline, on more more than 24,000 flights traveling more than 220 million kilometers.

The airline said there has been a significant increase in passenger bookings to and from Australia of late, with significant demand across all cabins, in particular since the introduction on Aug. 1 of a Premium Economy service on one of its daily Sydney services.

It comes as Emirates celebrates 20 years of flying to Perth. During this time, Emirates said it has also been a long-standing supporter of arts, culture and sporting institutions in Western Australia, investing in a variety of initiatives.

The airline added that Emirates SkyCargo, its cargo division, has also been a significant contributor to the local economy, carrying exports of Australian fruit and vegetables, meat and mining equipment to destinations throughout the airline’s global route network, including the Middle East, Europe and beyond.